Wednesday, November 12, 2008


"I cycled over from Ledbury to lunch with him ... he was greatly relieved at having that instant written his name under the score of the last bar [of Gerontius] ... I begged Elgar to remain just as he was while I went down and fetched my camera."- William Eller, 3 August 1900

Thomasina has posted a witty and insightful introduction to the upcoming SSO Dream of Gerontius and she includes a link to an essential podcast from the SSO website: David Garrett’s Q&A into the work.

Do listen before you go, and if you're not planning to go, listen and change your mind. I have posted a little, mostly about Cardinal Newman, here.

This all prompted a discography search, which ended up at The Elgar Society which has enough for even the most devoted. For Dream of Gerontius alone, there is :
* a superb comparative recording REVIEW (Walter Essex)
* a musical tour of the work
* the full libretto
* notes on how Elgar came to write the work

From Walter Essex:

Complete Recordings

Sargent (1945)Heddle Nash, Gladys Ripley, Dennis Noble, Norman Walker, Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra(Testament - SBT 2025)

Sargent (1955)Richard Lewis, Marjorie Thomas, John Cameron, Huddersfield Choral Society, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra(EMI - CHS7 63376-2)

Barbirolli (1957)Jon Vickers, Constance Shacklock, Marian Nowkowski, Orcestra Sinfonica e Coro della RAI di Roma(Arkadia - AKI 584)

Barbirolli (1964)Richard Lewis, Janet Baker, Kim Borg, Ambrosian Singers, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, Hallé Choir and Orchestra(EMI - CMS7 63185-2)

Britten (1972)Peter Pears, Yvonne Minton, John Shirley-Quirk, Choir of King's College, Cambridge, London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra(Decca - 448 170-2DF2)

Boult (1976)Nicolai Gedda, Helen Watts, Robert Lloyd, London Philharmonic Choir, John Alldis Choir, New Philharmonia Orchestra(EMI - CDS7 47208-8)

Gibson (1976)Robert Tear, Alfreda Hodgson, Benjamin Luxon, Scottish National Chorus and Orchestra(CRD - CRD3326/7)

Svetlanov (1983)Arthur Davies, Felicity Palmer, Norman Bailey, London Symphony Chorus, SSR State Symphony Orchestra(Melodiya - LP - ROCT 5289/90)

Rattle (1987)John Mitchinson, Dame Janet Baker, John Shirley-Quirk, City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Orchestra(EMI - CDS7 49549-2)

Hickox (1988)Arthur Davies, Felicity Palmer, Gwynne Howell, London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra(Chandos - CHAN8641/2)

Handley (1993)Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Michael George, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra(EMI - CD-EMXD2500)

Hill (1997)William Kendall, Matthew Best, Sarah Fryer, Waynflete Singers, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra(Naxos - 8.553885/6)

“Going through all these recordings within a relatively short space of time has not wearied the ear of the work; rather has it enriched and energised it and left me wishing for more. There are always artists who one hoped would have recorded the work or one hopes might yet do so, but one must not be greedy! We are lucky indeed to have so many recordings to choose amongst. I am not going to be presumptuous in recommending a recording outright - and nothing I have written is going to influence firm adherents to particular recordings or performers - but recently I had cause to introduce Gerontius to an acquaintance for whom it was his first experience of the work. I thought hard and long which recording to use, but I settled for Handley as a good all-round representation in modern sound.

Which recording do I turn to most frequently for sheer pleasure? That is easy : always Barbirolli's 1964 reading. However, in my "desert island" mood I conjure up my own personal ideal : Barbirolli, Vickers, Baker (1964), Lloyd, CBSO & Choir. Mind you, next week it could be Rattle, Nash, Hodgson..... See? The permutations are endless! “

I have the '57 live Barbirolli/Vickers. What it lacks in sound quailty doesn't matter. Vickers sings from within.

Thanks to Thomasina, and a pox on coughers, programme flickers, and purgatory.

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